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Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2012 Dec 15;22(24):7711-4. doi: 10.1016/j.bmcl.2012.09.101. Epub 2012 Oct 5.

Essential structure of opioid κ receptor agonist nalfurafine for binding to the κ receptor 3: synthesis of decahydro(iminoethano)phenanthrene derivatives with an oxygen functionality at the 3-position and their pharmacologies.

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Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry, School of Pharmacy, Kitasato University, 5-9-1, Shirokane, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8641, Japan.


To clarify the essential structures of an opioid κ receptor selective agonist, nalfurafine, for binding to the κ receptor, we designed and synthesized the decahydro(iminoethano)phenanthrene derivatives with an oxygen functionality at the 3-position. The introduction of a hydroxy group to the derivatives increased the affinity and selectivity to the κ receptor regardless of the configuration at the 3-position. However, their affinities were lower than those of nalfurafine with the phenolic hydroxy group. The results suggested that the acidity of the hydroxy group would play an important role in the interaction with the opioid receptor. The low affinities of the 3-keto derivatives indicated that the 3-hydroxy group may participate in the hydrogen bonding with the receptor site not as a hydrogen acceptor but as a hydrogen donor. This is the first experimental evidence for a role as a hydrogen donor for the 3-hydroxy group in morphinans. Furthermore, the κ selectivities in these derivatives with the 6α-amide side chain were affected by the the 3-hydroxy group. The obtained structure-activity relationship information is expected to be useful for the design of more selective ligands for the κ receptor.

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